Chinese Pangolin
(Manis pentadactyla)
The Chinese pangolin possesses long, powerful claws, for ripping open ant and termite nests, and a long, thin, sticky tongue which can measure up to 40 cm in length, for scooping up its prey. The species is heavily hunted both within China and its other range states, for its meat, which is considered a delicacy, as well as for its skin and scales which are used in traditional Chinese medicine. Chinese pangolin body parts fetch a high price at market and international trade in pangolins appears to be increasing despite laws designed to protect the species in most of its range states.
Urgent Conservation Actions
Greater enforcement of anti-poaching measures within protected areas and trade restrictions are urgently needed.
Bangladesh; Bhutan; China; Hong Kong; India; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Myanmar; Nepal; Taiwan, Province of China; Thailand; Viet Nam.
In Chinese legend pangolins are said to travel all around the world underground, and in the Cantonese language the name for pangolins translates to “the animal that digs through the mountain,” or “Chun-shua-cap,” which translates to “scaly hill-borer.”

In Mandarin, the Chinese pangolin’s name ‘Ling-Li’ means ‘hill carp’ in reference to its brownish-yellow scales which look similar to those of the Chinese carp.
Associated Blog Posts
6th Sep 15
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30th Aug 15
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22nd Apr 15
  Blind salamanders, paternal toads, scaly anteaters, fiery-coloured cats.  There can be no doubt that we live in a world of wonders, of beauty and variet...  Read

21st Feb 15
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17th Nov 14
This week Angry Birds has teamed up with United for Wildlife to bring you a one off exclusive ‘Roll with the Pangolins’ tournament, aimed at raising awar...  Read

1st Aug 14
I am back again with some significant updates of pangolin conservation project in eastern Nepal. We established two village level pangolin conservation commi...  Read

29th Jul 14
The pangolin is literally being eaten out of existence according to the latest IUCN Red List update which shows that all eight species are now threatened wit...  Read

7th Jul 13
EDGE Programme Manager, Carly Waterman, and EDGE Fellow, Ambika Khatiwada, attended the recent IUCN-SSC Pangolin Specialist Group Conservation Conference in ...  Read

24th Jun 13
Today (24th June) marks the start of the first ever global Pangolin conference organised by the IUCN Pangolin Specialist Group and Wildlife Reserves Singapor...  Read

14th Mar 13
Greetings friends! I’m pleased to be able to update you with the progress of my Chinese pangolin conservation project here in Nepal. Over the last couple o...  Read

15th Feb 13
Saturday the 16th of February, World Pangolin Day 2013, marks a special date for two of our most charismatic yet most threatened EDGE species. Pangolins...  Read

2nd Oct 12
In August 2012, I helped to organize a one day, national level workshop focusing on Chinese pangolin conservation in Nepal. The main objective of the worksho...  Read

17th Sep 12
An international group of experts has launched a new website devoted to pangolin conservation and research. Pangolins, insect-eating mammals found in Asia an...  Read

17th Jul 12
My name is Ambika, I am from Nepal and my EDGE Fellowship focuses on studying the Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) in the eastern Himalayas, Tapleju...  Read

30th Apr 12
There is no doubt that the eastern traditional medicinal market is booming: demand for animal products across Asia is on the rise. Tiger bones, ivory from ...  Read

18th Feb 12
Today, 18th February 2012, is World Pangolin Day so we hope you’ll join with us in celebrating these wonderfully weird little creatures. Pangolins, or ...  Read

Evolutionary Distinctiveness
Order: Pholidota
Family: Manidae

Pangolins or scaly anteaters (order Pholidota, meaning ‘scaled animals’) are a group of unusual mammals with tough, protective keratin scales. The phylogenetic position of the Pholidota remains a disputed topic. Pangolins were once included together with the anteaters, sloths, armadillos and the African aardvark in the order Xenarthra (formerly Edentata), so named because of the lack of some or all of the teeth. It is now believed, however, that any morphological similarities between the pangolins and other ant-eating mammals are the results of parallel adaptations to a common way of life.


The ancestors of the pangolins are thought to have been members of the suborder Palaeanodonta, which diverged from the ancestral edentates some 60 million years ago. These small, armourless animals rapidly became extinct but their successors evolved into the order Pholidota. The fossil record implies that the ancestors of modern day pangolins colonized Africa before Asia, suggesting Asian pangolins evolved later than their African relatives.  


Today, the Pholidota is one of the smallest of the placental mammals, containing just one family, the Manidae, with eight living species. Four species are found in Africa and three in Southeast Asia. 


Chinese pangolins are of genetic interest due to the differing diploid number of chromosomes found in animals from different areas of their distribution. The Chinese pangolin M. pentadactyla can be distinguished from the Indian pangolin M. crassicaudata due to small scales and from the Sunda pangolin M. javanica due to the lack of pads on its’ soles.

Weight: 2-10 kg
Chinese pangolins are specialised for feeding solely on ants and termites, resulting in them sometimes being given the alternative common name of scaly anteaters. They have long, powerful claws for ripping open termite nests and a long, thin, sticky tongue which can measure up to 40 cm in length. Their elongated, streamlined bodies are covered with large, rounded scales measuring 2-5 cm in diameter. These scales are formed from fused hair and contribute to around 25 per cent of the animal’s total body weight. Ranging in colour from light yellow-brown to black, the scales cover everywhere except the face, underside and inner surface of the limbs and foot pads. When faced with danger the animals roll into a ball to protect these areas. The name ‘pangolin’ actually comes from the Malayan word peng-goling, meaning “the roller”. The pointed head is small in comparison to the body, with small eyes, and a narrow mouth.
Chinese pangolins have poor vision and therefore rely on their sense of smell to locate their prey, which consists exclusively of ants and termites. They rip open termite and ant nests with their strong fore-claws and use their long, sticky tongue to scoop the prey into their toothless mouths. Being nocturnal the pangolin sleeps during a day in a burrow which it digs itself.  

Individuals are solitary and occupy a relatively large home range. Although capable of climbing trees, the species is thought to be largely terrestrial. Like other pangolins, the Chinese pangolin is a good swimmer.

Mating takes place in late summer or early autumn, during which time males may be observed fighting over the opportunity to mate with a female. A single (occasionally two) young is born the following spring. The young are equipped with scales which remain soft and flexible during the first few days of life. Although they are able to walk at birth, young pangolins are often carried on their mother's tail.
This species is found in a wide range of habitats, including primary and secondary tropical forests, limestone forests, bamboo forests, grasslands and agricultural fields.
The species has a wide distribution, occurring in southern China (south of the Chiangjiang), Hainan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Himalayan foothills in eastern Nepal, Bhutan and northern India, northeastern Bangladesh, across Myanmar to northern Lao PDR and northern and central Vietnam, northern and northeastern Thailand.
Population Estimate
Unknown. Due to its solitary and nocturnal nature this species is rarely observed, and therefore little information exists on its population status.
Population Trend

Classified as Critically Endangered (A2d+3d+4d) on the 2014 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.


The Chinese pangolin has been intensively hunted for its meat, which is considered a delicacy, as well as for its skin, scales and blood which are used in traditional Chinese medicine. In parts of northern China it is tradition to catch pangolins when they emerge from their winter burrows in spring and keep them alive until sold at market. They are then killed by crushing the skull, after which the tongue is quickly cut and bled so the warm blood can be drunk as a tonic.

The species may be harvested for local use, or for international export either before or after processing. Observations in mainland Southeast Asia indicate that there is very heavy unofficial, or at least unrecorded, international trade in pangolins and pangolin products.Hunters interviewed in Viet Nam reported that they now sell all pangolins that they catch. Prices paid to hunters now exceed USD 95 per kg in Vietnam, making national and international trade so profitable that local, subsistence use of pangolins for either meat or their scales has almost completely halted. Since the Chinese pangolin is more terrestrial than other Asian pangolin species it is probably easier to track using specially trained hunting dogs, and as a result may be at even greater risk from hunting than the related Sunda pangolin. Certainly the species is now extremely rare in parts of its range, such as Vietnam and Lao PDR.

Habitat loss and degradation may also be having a negative impact on the species, although evidence suggests that pangolins, in general, are able to adapt to modified habitats, provided their ant and termite food source remains abundant and they are not unduly persecuted.

Conservation Underway
This species is listed on CITES Appendix II; a zero annual export quota has been established for specimens removed from the wild and traded for primarily commercial purposes. It is protected by national or subnational legislation in Bangladesh, China, India, Lao, Myanmar, Nepal, Taiwan, Thailand, and Viet Nam. It also occurs in some protected areas. However, unfortunately these measures have not been sufficient in reducing the illegal hunting and trade that takes place.

This project supports in-country EDGE Fellows to help conserve relevant EDGE species

This project aims to obtain baseline information on the status, distribution ecology, the drivers of decline mainly hunting and habitat degradation and to define solutions for mitigating major threats along with plan of action and initiate implementation of program activities in Nangknolyang and Dokhu villages of Taplejung district.

Conservation Proposed
While large seizures of illegally caught Chinese pangolins do occur, greater enforcement of laws and improved management to prevent poaching in protected areas are urgently needed.
Associated EDGE Community members

My EDGE Fellowship is to study Pangolins. I have been working for the NTNC since 2011.

I am a criminology graduate student. Research interests: Wildlife trade, illegal logging

Duckworth, J.W., Steinmitz, R., Anak Pattanavibool, Than Zaw, Do Tuoc & Newton, P. 2008. Manis pentadactyla. In: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 18 January 2010.

Heath, M. E. 1992. Mammalian Species: Manis pentadactyla. The American Society of Mammalogists. 14: 1-6.

MacDonald, D. W. 2006. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Nie, W. et al. 2009.Chromosomal Rearrangements Underlying Karyotype Differences Between Chinese Pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) and Malayan Pangolin (Manis javanica) Revealed by Chromosome Painting. Chromosome Research 17:321–329.

Newton, P., Nguyen Van, T., Roberton, S. and Bell, D. 2008. Pangolins in Preil: Using local hunters’ knowledge to conserve elusive species in Vietnam. Endangered Species Research, Vol. 6, 41-53.  

Nguyen, V. T., Newton, P., Roberton, S., Bell, D and Clark, V. L. 2008. Tapping into local knowledge to help conserve pangolins in Vietnam. Proceedings of the workshop on trade and conservation of pangolins native to South and Southeast Asia: 163.

Nowak, R. M. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.

Wu, S., Naifa, L., Youyu, L., and Ruyong, S. 2008. Preliminary observation on food habits and foraging behaviour in Chinese pangolin Manis pentadactyla. Proceedings of the workshop on trade and conservation of pangolins native to South and Southeast Asia: 94.

Zhang, L., Wu, S., and Bao, Y. 2008. Current status of Chinese pangolin Manis pentadactyla in the wild. Proceedings of the workshop on trade and conservation of pangolins native to South and Southeast Asia: 103.

if you can provide new information to update this species account or to correct any errors, please email us at info@edgeofexistence.org

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